Today, the Indiegogo campaign opens for a proposed internet site called Bideas (think Bid-Ideas), an auction site where "big companies bid on big ideas" and the project describes itself as an "eBay for ideas". Though the site hopes to serve many different types of "creatives", founders of the project feel that the site will have have plenty to offer comics creators since writers and artists may use the private service to have Bideas.com pitch their creations securely to publishers. In fact, Bideas is planning to put selected ideas on the tables of comics publishers based on a team of pros "ranking" your idea, to highlight and encourage the publishers to bid on the highest-flying projects. If the campaign is successful and the site launches, those who supported the campaign will get rewards that may help them boost their reach as well.
LA-based founder and inventor Chris Simpson answered some questions for us about how the site will function and some of the personal motivation behind his own big idea. Ownership in comics (see Shia LaBeouf and Dan Clowes) is a fraught topic these days (well, hasn't it always been?), so we threw in some questions about rights to material that appears on Bideas as well.
Hannah Means-Shannon: What made you realize there was a need for this kind of platform?
Chris Simpson: Like so many of us I've always been an 'ideas person'. There comes a point when you've submitted your ideas so many times to big companies and had them slam the door in your face, saying, "We are not able to accept unsolicted submissions", or, "We do not have the resources to review…", that you realize there is something very wrong with the way innovation is curated. All those amazing everyday Edisons, all those ideas, and they end up shut away in a desk drawer. I feel this slows down global innovation. And the solutions seemed simple to me – solve the reasons they don't accept submissions (the legal fears of being sued), and do the heavy lifting so they don't have to spend their resources on it, using the latest technologies we now have that didn't exist when those companies' "rules" were drawn up in the last century.
HMS: Was it difficult explaining the concept to others?
CS: It's seemed surprisingly easy actually. Everyone has a great idea that could change the world. Getting it to the great companies of the world is where they've usually hit a roadblock. So when I mention that we're creating a sort of private 'eBay for ideas', where big companies can bid on big ideas, through a professionally curated portal, people's eyes light up like it was just the solution they didn't know they needed.
HMS: What do you think the impact of this new avenue could be for independent comics creators and those hoping to do pitches to publishers?
CS: I love comics. I'm a bit of a closet geek in fact. I was lucky enough to appear in the Star Wars movies (portraying Lt. Gavyn Sykes, and being Anakin's Stand-in, amongst other roles), yet I'm such a fan also. I completely relate. I'm also a big fan of your site and follow the latest news on a daily basis.
The impact will be that big companies can safely receive the next big thing, under a watertight agreement they're as happy with as you. Therefore ideas that would never have made it through the firmly closed door, are suddenly on the executives' desks. This helps the company, and it helps the writer. Ultimately you'll see a lot more game-changing ideas out there, some of them realistically maybe your readers' ones.
HMS: How does Bideas work when it comes to comics?
CS: What I want to happen is for my fellow readers help support our crowdfunder so Bideas.com does exist, then in about 6 months, start beta testing with us – which is one of our perks. Theirs will be the first to be submitted to the Dark Horse Comics of the industry. They'll upload as much or as little of their concept as they want, and our comic experts (curated from the industry) will rate the idea to create a final 5-star score. Those such as Dark Horse will understandably only want 5-star ideas, but smaller companies have more time to work with the creator to turn a 3 into a 5. We then submit the ideas, but no more than one idea per day to each company. The publishers love this. Imagine you were a busy exec, but keen and open to innovation, and suddenly someone was sending you the very best stories in a manageable trickle. What's not to like? And then the top companies have 90 days to exchange questions and info with the creator, then place a blind auction 'bid' for the rights. The highest bid wins, just as it essentially works right now, in a more old-fashioned sense.
HMS: Can you explain the reward system for pledges to us since it's a little unusual? What exactly are the rewards for crowdfunding support and how do they work?
CS: Sure. There are two types of rewards. One is physical, namely our "Naked Entrepreneur Pack", including award-winning music, sci-fi writing, and more. The second is some record-breakingly big discounts for using Bideas.com. Just like crowdfunders get gadgets cheap by pledging to help the creators build them, we're the same and more. Help us build Bideas, get it dead cheap when we do. E.g. if you pledge $20 to support us now, we'll give you $190 in credit to use on Bideas. Gadget makers' overheads prevent them offering quite such big discounts. The pledges go up in value, including free inclusion in the beta test, which means your ideas will be seen first by the Dark Horses of the world.
HMS: Once the system is functioning, how do creators know their ideas won't be open to theft/ repurposing by other members of the site? That's a major problem of sharing ideas online, so we're wondering how that's combated in this system.
CS: First know our site is private, not public. When you list an idea, it is only visible to a company who has signed our special non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement. We'll be working with top L.A. copyright and entertainment law firm, Lowe & Associates, to help achieve that. And the agreement has a few unique and novel trade secret twists (our 'special sauce'), to ensure that even if that company has had or claims to have had a similar idea internally that they later release, there can be no wrongdoing.
We're quite pleased with that solution! But our strongest innovation is that after a company has seen your idea and the auction closed, the company can then be rated by you, indefinitely. This offers a big deterrent to any company doing wrong, because you get to choose what rating of companies will even ever see the comic idea. If a company steals one idea, not only is it illegal, not only will we stand up in court with you, not only does our system time-stamp your submission as solid copyright proof just like the Writers' Guild, but the company would be effectively shut out of all future ideas from our innovation stream, whilst their competitors thrive in it. If the laws of the land aren't quite enough, we believe that truly is.
HMS: What sort of rights do creators preserve having used the system? Are their concepts still entirely their own property to sell or does Bideas have a stake in them afterward?
CS: No rights are held by Bideas. The comic creator retains all rights at the submission stages. If a company bids and successfully buys the rights, then obviously they transfer at the time the agreement is signed after the auction closes, just like normal. Bideas makes its money via a nominal up-front fee when you first submit an idea (under $99!), which helps us pay for the panel of 5-10 experts who will rate it, etc. If and when an idea sells, we take a small percentage, just like sites such as eBay – a sort of finder's fee, and just like a literary agent would. Clichéd it may be, but we believe 90% of everything is better than 100% of nothing. I'm building Bideas in a way I'd want to use it, and have always said that I would only do so if it would work, because I've been in the same position as your readers so many times, and still am on a regular basis. If they want to see the site launch, believe me so do we! I hope they'll be able to pledge, so we can reward them with the very generous perks, and with the site itself in the coming months. The difference between having your idea on Randy Stradley's laptop screen or not, is – we believe – worth a lot more than a $20 pledge that will enable it to be.
Thanks for having me on Bleeding Cool! See you at http://igg.me/at/bideas from 08:30 PST onward on Monday February 3rd for our big launch!